ET 22: Spirited Away as anime

The word ‘anime’ short for animation has become increasingly popular in the past decade. For me when I hear the word anime, I immediately think of Japanese animated films or shows. Even though Hollywood does produce animated films as well, however I tend to think of those as ‘cartoons’ instead of ‘anime’. Therefore throughout this essay I will refer to anime as Japanese anime and cartoons as other animated films.

The difference between the two is that anime has a lot more detail in terms of characters and the audience can relate to the stories they tell. Cartoons on the other hand may have characters with odd body shapes (The Simpsons) and its purpose is to mainly make the audience laugh. (Reference to:

I totally agree with this as from experience, anime’s are closer to the heart and touch on events that are realistic in one way or another. Take for example ‘Spirited Away’, which is an initiation movie; this anime film is about a little girl growing through hardships and comes out of it a little more mature and grown up. Anyone who is past or in their childhood can relate to this movie as they too would have understood what the protagonist is going through in the film. You might say ‘Alice in Wonderland’ too is relatable as it is of a girl entering an unknown world and growing up in the process. However, to me, ‘Spirited Away’ has more appeal and is more believable as there has been talk of spirits and magic since a long time ago; which doesn’t make it seem far from home. On the other hand no-one has heard of people growing smaller or bigger after drinking some potion or of playing cards who guard the underground world. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s how I see it.


This may be because of the cultural differences between the films that are made in anime and ones that are cartoon. The Japanese animated films have a certain Asian feel to it and may be based on olden myths, tales or even history, which makes it more applicable to me since I’m Asian. For example “My Neighbour Totoro” which I thought was a normal kind of fun family type movie turns out to be about death and murder, which is based on the true story of the ‘Sayama incident’. Reference to: (Warning: the 2nd picture is really explicit and too horrific for my eyes). It drastically changed the way I looked at the movie and will forever be changed. This shows that anime films have more depth in them and not just an obvious moral of the story like the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’ whose moral is that what’s on the inside is more important than the outside.

In addition to that, as mentioned before, anime puts more detail into the characters and in developing their facial characteristics. For example anime characters may show the tiniest emotion like the twitch of the mouth when annoyed or the slight raise of the eyebrow when confused. I can relate to this as the smallest muscle contraction/relaxation can be the most important element when dealing with a person as it may tell you the person’s feelings at that precise moment. Also in anime, the expressions tend to be exaggerated which makes it funny and more relatable because it gives us more of a sense of that feeling. For example if the character is annoyed, one way of showing this anime style is by having an angry face then adding this red kind of square at the top corner of the head. The red square symbolises the frustration of the character and that he’s angry enough to hit someone (as can be seen on the 3rd picture going from the top right to left).

Another way to demonstrate an annoyed or frustrated person is by showing narrow eyes and mouth slightly at the side which hints that the person is annoyed but can’t be bothered to do anything about it. Or just the normal narrow eyes would do the trick, as can be seen from the first two pictures from the top left, going down.

Cartoons on the other hand have the normal, almost boring expressions like; surprised, joy, sadness, anger and confusion among some others. This may make it comical as the facial features are executed as a large performance, however after a few repetitions it gets tiring to watch.

Another distinction between the two is the visual art. Modern anime has a unique art style that visually enraptures the audience to watch. Also, anime art can be ‘dark and mysterious’, and kind of expressionistic which for me makes it seem more mature and therefore more appealing.

Where-else cartoons just look childish to me:

A reason for this may be because of the content of the films themselves. One of the reasons I find anime more interesting is because cartoons are made mainly for children and therefore are restricted to what they show on screen, while anime films are not limited to making their films for children.

There exists anime films for adult, teenagers and for about every other age and these films are not afraid to show a little bit of ‘dark scenes’ like blood or scary monsters and the like. Furthermore anime may touch on issues that one encounters as one has grown up and may be portrayed through an adult protagonist, which is different from cartoons as they are mainly about kids/teenagers or are somehow related to children. This is exactly what makes anime more attractive to the older audience, like me though I limit myself to watching films with the least amount of gore as possible.

That is the reason why I think anime is getting increasingly popular, because anime itself can be a genre and has all the sub-genres under it like; fantasy, romance, action, comedy, adventure and so on which appeals to a wide range of audiences. Though I think the bulk of the people watching anime is from Asia, since, as mentioned before, anime has a certain Asian feel to it, more specifically a Japanese feel. Which makes sense as anime comes from Japan, plus the movies are in Japanese. For example in ‘Spirited Away’ the main building is a Bath house and that’s a pretty famous part of Japanese culture. However non-Asians too are getting caught up in the anime hype as it basically can be a fun way to pass time even without having to relate much with it.

I do not have much experience in anime films but I do have quite a lot of experience when it comes to anime shows such as ‘Skip Beat!’, ‘Angel Beats’ or ‘Bleach’ and ‘One Piece’. Though from the few movies that I’ve watched I’d recommend ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ and “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ and of course my all-time favourite, ‘Spirited Away’ if you haven’t already seen it.


2 thoughts on “ET 22: Spirited Away as anime

  1. Pingback: Your Name (2016) Review | championangels

  2. This certainly does redeem you. It is an excellent essay, full of close observation and detail. I think your points about the links to Asian Culture are important, but need more expansion. Actually, though, many of the points you make about “cartoons” are a bit unfair. The Simpsons — yes — but some of the great Disney animations are as elegant as the Japanese.

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